Kurdistan Workers Party

From Academic Kids

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Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) Flag
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Congress for Freedom and Democracy in Kurdistan (KADEK) Flag
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Kongra-gel Flag
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Kurdistan National Liberation Front (ERNK) Flag (Political wing of PKK)
Free Life Party of Kurdistan Flag (PJAK - Partiya Jiyana Azad a KurdistanÍ)
Free Life Party of Kurdistan Flag (PJAK - Partiya Jiyana Azad a KurdistanÍ)
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Freedom Party of Kurdistan's Women (PAJK - Partiya Azadiya Jin a Kurdistan)
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People's Defence Forces (HPG - Heza Parastina Gel)

The Kurdistan Workers Party (Kurdish: Partiya KarkerÍn Kurdistan or PKK), is an armed anti-goverment organisation claiming to defend the rights of the Kurdish people in Turkey. Its main objective is the creation of an independent Kurdish state in Kurdistan, a territory that is currently southeastern Turkey, northeastern Iraq, northeastern Syria and northwestern Iran. It arose from a radical youth movement in Turkey and was founded in 1973 by Abdullah ÷calan. It operated informally until 1978 when it proclaimed itself a revolutionary communist movement following a Marxist-Leninist doctrine, though since then it has abandoned much of its leftist doctrine. In 2002, the party renamed itself to KADEK, and then in 2004 to Kongra-Gel (Kurdistan People's Congress). In 2005 the party reverted back to its original name, PKK.

The PKK is a controversial group with supporters and opponents around the world. In its campaign for Kurdish independence, the organisation has been accused of atrocities against both Turkish and Kurdish civilians. The party is characterised as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the European Union, the United States, Iran and several other countries, and its actions are sometimes criticised by human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The same organisations criticise the Turkish government in its campaign to suppress the organisation, alleging serious atrocities.



Actions that the PKK has been accused of include:

  • Bombing (suicide and otherwise) of local government and police installations, and tourist sites.
  • Raiding villages and small towns.
  • Kidnapping Western tourists, primarily in Istanbul and at Turkish seaside resorts.
  • Conducting attacks on Turkish diplomatic and commercial facilities across Western Europe
  • Raiding villages and small towns.
  • Attacking Kurdish civilians who would not cooperate with the group or were alleged of collaborating with the Turkish military.
  • Riots, protests, and demonstrations.
  • Attacking Turkish military and police forces, local Village guards and non-Kurdish civilians.

According to the Turkish Government, from 1984 through November 1997, 26,532 PKK members, 5,185 security force members, and 5,209 civilians lost their lives in the fighting. The damage to infrastructure and the money spent to end the conflict is claimed by the Turkish government to stand at 200 billion ($200,000,000,000) US dollars.

Resource gathering

The organisation's budget has been estimated at $86 million USD.Template:Ref It is thought to have raised funds by:

  • Parties and concerts organized by branch groups in Europe
  • Donations from individuals and organizations throughout Europe and around the world.
  • Sales of publications.
  • Aid from governments such as Syria, Iran, and the former government of Iraq.
  • Extortion of money from local business owners and individuals, including an alleged tax on rich Kurdish businessmen around the world.
  • Revenues from legitimate businesses owned by the organisation.
  • Alleged people and drug smuggling.


The areas in which the group operates are generally mountainous rural areas and dense urban areas. The mountainous terrain offers an advantage to members of the PKK by allowing them to hide in a network of caves and making military air operations, especially helicopter use, hazardous for the Turkish government. While in urban areas, PKK members are often able to blend in with the local population.

The group has been accused of planting mines (Russian-made anti-vehicle mines and Russian- and Italian-made anti-personnel mines. Use of these mines has led to civilian deaths, in part due to triggering by trucks and buses rather than the intended military armoured vehicles.

The GAP project, seen by some as harmful to Kurds and their villages, has been a target for sabotage by the PKK, including abductions of engineers.


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PKK supporters demonstrating in London (April 2003)
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PKK supporters demonstrating after the capture of Abdullah ÷calan in Frankfurt, Germany (16 February 1999)
  • In 1973 the Kurdistan Workers Party, PKK, was established by Abdullah ÷calan, later formalised its doctrine in 1978.
  • In early 1980s consolidated resources and power base, prior to the military coup in Turkey, the PKK fled Turkey and established training camps in the Bekaa valley, part of ex-Syrian-controlled Lebanon.
  • In 1984 the organisation started its armed activities directed towards the Turkish military and Governmental institutes as well as civilian targets throughout Turkey
  • From early 1984 to 2 April 2002, the organisation operated under the banner of PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party).
  • From 1986 to 1987, Turkish Air Force raided PKK camps in northern Iraq in with the approval of the Iraqi government.
  • In 1990s the organisation amended/abandoned its communist secular ideology to better accommodate and accept Islamic beliefs and also abandoned its previous strategy of attacking Kurdish civilians, focusing instead on governmental and tourist targets. The organisation's all-time high of activity was during the Gulf War when Turkey opened its Iraqi border allowing Iraqis and PKK members to flee the Saddam regime. The president of the era, Turgut ÷zal, is heavily criticised for his decision on this matter.
  • Two major operations were launched one at the end of 1992 and other in March 1995, were launched against the PKK, Some 1,912 PKK members died and 132 were captured alive during the ground actions of Operation Steel which was carried out by the Turkish Army in northern Iraq in May 1997. Some 965 PKK members died during the air raids. A total of 113 Turkish officers and soldiers were killed and 325 injured during this operation.
  • Beginning in 1993, PKK members launched attacks from Iranian soil.
  • Later in 1993, the PKK launched coordinated attacks involving firebombs and vandalism on Turkish diplomatic and commercial offices in six West European countries.
  • In 1994, the political party affiliated with the PKK, Democracy Party, was banned to operate as a political institution. Some members, most prominently Leyla Zana, were arrested and charged with treason and membership in the PKK but were released in 2004.
  • Early 1990s president Hafez Assad of Syria was to cooperate on the management of water flow from the GAP project. Despite a number of protocols signed for that purpose, reports indicate Assad chose to force Turkey into releasing more water by increasing his support for PKK. During this period the PKK started attacking the infrastructure and personnel of the GAP Project.
  • At the end of 1996, in PKK leader Abdullah ÷calan signed a protocol of cooperation with the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C).
  • Over the year 1997, the Turkish Army put out of action 3,302 PKK operatives, among which 484 were captured, 415 surrendered, and 303 arrested, in various operations including those in northern Iraq. During the same period, security forces lost 192 soldiers and 95 others were wounded; in addition, 49 village guards were killed and 14 wounded.
  • On November 14, 1999, Abdullah ÷calan arrived in Rome, Italy accompanied by Ramon Mantovani, a member of the Communist Refoundation Party, from Moscow. Its arrival was a suprise to the Italian government, which had not been notified, and an international crisis began, especially with Turkey. After many rallies in Rome by Kurds, and a wave of sympathy for a people that many did not know of, the government of Massimo D'Alema was not yet able to take a clear stance on ÷calan's status as a refugee or as an international terrorist. Finally, ÷calan was allowed to leave the country, without revealing his destination, thereby releasing the Italian government from an embarassing situation.
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Abdullah ÷calan right after capture.

The PKK now

Since the declaration of cease-fire on August 2004, aside from a few isolated incidents armed conflict came to a complete halt. Recently however there is an inclrease on PKK activity. There is an increase in PKK attacks on Turkish military, police, and governmental targets near the Iraqi border in the last weeks. While PKK claims it is only acting in self-defense, Ankara is increasing her pressure to the US for a millitary strike to the PKK in northern Iraq.

With the end of its unilateral cease-fire in August 2004 (the cease-fire had lasted for five years), on the claims that Ankara's reforms are "cosmetic", PKK leaders seem to favour a return to armed guerilla warfare. A great increase in PKK attacks on Turkish military, police and governmental targets seem to further prove this fact. The PKK claims it is only acting in self-defense and for the protection for the Kurds. Meanwhile, the leader of the PKK, Abdullah ÷calan, has recently released the Declaration of Democratic Confederalism in Kurdistan [1] (http://www.kurdishmedia.com/reports.asp?id=2552).

Since his arrest in 1999, ÷calan had been campaigning for a peaceful solution to the Kurdish conflict inside the borders of Turkey, and in this document he asks for a border free confederation between the Kurdish pieces of Turkey (called North Kurdistan by Kurdish nationalists), Syria (West Kurdistan), Iraq (South Kurdistan) and Iran (East Kurdistan). In this zone, three bodies of law would be implemented: EU law, Turkish/Syrian/Iraqi/Iranian law and Kurdish law

Abdullah ÷calan
Abdullah ÷calan

Abdullah ÷calan

Main article: Abdullah ÷calan

Abdullah ÷calan (b. 1948) is the leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party and was captured in Kenya in early 1999 in a joint operation between the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Turkish National Intelligence Agency (MIT), and Israeli Institute for Intelligence and Special Tasks agency (Mossad).

See also


  • Template:Note Section based on the article by Nur Bilge Criss, 'The Nature of PKK Terrorism in Turkey', Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 8 (1995) pp. 17-37
  • Template:Note Section based on material published by the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs unless specified otherwise.

External links

Websites supporting the PKK

Kurdish issue in Turkey

PKK - Kurdish issue links

Websites with criticism of the PKK



Other websites that cover the Turkey/PKK conflict

de:Partiya KarkerÍn Kurdistan fr:Parti des travailleurs du Kurdistan ja:クルド労働者党 ku:Partiya KarkerÍn Kurdistan nl:Congres voor Vrijheid en Democratie in Koerdistan tr:PKK fi:Kurdistanin tyŲvšenpuolue sv:PKK


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